|In case it wasn't clear, I thought this was great - or rather it got really great (the first fifteen to twenty minutes still suffered from some of the weaknesses the show's often portrayed, such as Sam's behaviour being a bad combination of unsubtle, unlikeable and plain thick). There have definitely been some clues: Gene calls Sam "Dorothy" in the opening few moments of this episode, for example. But for a moment I really did believe they were going to go for the whole "forget the first episode, he's just a guy from 1973 who's gone mad" angle, which would have been so ballsy I was rooting for it. Yet the way it actually went down was great as well - I'm particularly glad they didn't do something annoying like have Sam look in an archived newspaper in 200(7?) and see a story about Gene and the team being killed before deciding to go back - nope, he really does have to go and save his imaginary friends, pretty much. Here's where I start talking about fictionverses and that, but y'know that I only wheel this stuff out when I'm genuinely convinced it's there.|
It had a huge amount in common with Grant Morrison's final issue of Doom Patrol, although I think the basic themes are resonant enough for that to not rely on any comics having been read by the writers etc. In both cases you could read the end as the protagonist choosing to buy into their self-created fantasy world rather than reality, and commit suicide. While ambiguity is always sexy, such a bleak reading would be contrary to Morrison's intentions in Doom Patrol, at least partly due to the writer's stated belief in different fictional realities and the ability to travel between them. I think there's something similar going on in Life On Mars. Gene Hunt isn't real: he's a character in a fantasy world heavily influenced by 1970s cop shows. But then, Sam Tyler (21st century version) isn't 'real' either: he's also a character in a cop show, in a fictional world albeit one that bears a little more resemblance to ours. And at the end, he walks (or rather leaps) between worlds. The fictionality of the whole thing is just confirmed by that ending, with the little girl who, if you're anything like me, makes a chill run down your spine, turning the show 'off'.
Yes, so Gene Hunt is an imaginary character. So how can they make Ashes To Ashes? Well, all the other characters in it will also be imaginary. [Neil Gaiman]Aren't they all?[/Neil Gaiman]
Great last ever episodes have a tendency to mask a lot of the flaws of the rest of the show, particular if the show was short. I think Life On Mars definitely falls into that category.